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Microsoft promises Call of Duty on PlayStation amid UK scrutiny

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The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) today announced it’s completed the first part of its investigation into the Activision Blizzard-Microsoft acquisition. While the findings were inconclusive, Microsoft made a promise in response. It reassured players it has no intention of keeping Activision Blizzard’s upcoming titles from PlayStation.

The CMA said that it recommends a second, more extensive investigation into the acquisition. It expressed concern that “Microsoft could leverage Activision Blizzard’s games together with Microsoft’s strength across console, cloud, and PC operating systems to damage competition in the nascent market for cloud gaming services.”

A further investigation into the acquisition will likely require the regulators to investigate the communications between the two companies. They will have to determine whether the merger was made with the intention of cutting out market competition, specifically by reviewing both companies’ internal documents.

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick published a letter to the company’s staff in response to the decision. According to him, the process is “generally moving along as we expected” and outlined why regulators are still investigating. He added that they’ll require the approval of many governments, and have “already received approvals from a couple of countries.”

Healthy competition

In the middle of this, Microsoft stated that it has no intention of taking Call of Duty from PlayStation players. Phil Spencer said, in a blog post about the CMA’s choices, “We’ve heard that this deal might take franchises like Call of Duty away from the places where people currently play them. That’s why, as we’ve said before, we are committed to making the same version of Call of Duty available on PlayStation on the same day the game launches elsewhere.”

That said, Spencer confirmed it is bringing Activision Blizzard’s games to Game Pass. “We intend to make Activision Blizzard’s much-loved library of games – including Overwatch, Diablo and Call of Duty – available in Game Pass and to grow those gaming communities.” While Call of Duty is the only franchise Spencer explicitly promised would come to PlayStation, the implication is that the company will keep the all of these upcoming releases multiplatform.

Player fears that acquisitions would alienate certain user bases cut both ways. Following Sony’s acquisition of Bungie, the studio reassured everyone that it would operate independently. CEO Pete Parsons said, “Our games will continue to be where our community is, wherever they choose to play.” Similarly, Spencer tweeted in January, “Had good calls this week with leaders at Sony. I confirmed our intent to honor all existing agreements upon acquisition of Activision Blizzard and our desire to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation. Sony is an important part of our industry, and we value our relationship.”

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